ISLAMABAD: Ignorance is certainly not bliss in the case of some rural women who dwell in the outskirts of the capital. Their harsh realities are rooted in the irony that they lack both education and resources to improve their lives and those they support.
Women living in Islamabad’s vicinity might be deprived of basic necessities. They might not even be sure of where their lives are headed but they are certain of one thing — they want to enable their children, especially their daughters, to brighten their future by educating them.
Among many others, whose efforts the United Nation lauds on its designated day of rural women today, is Ruqqaiya Bibi, a resident of Choti Arhnao village near Alipur Farash Town.
The 35-year-old, who single-handedly controls the affairs of the house, braces to fetch water from a nearby spring twice or thrice everyday despite severe weather or her poor health.
“Since the male members go out to work, it is the prime responsibility of all women members to fetch drinking water,” she confesses.
Despite her upbringing, Ruqqaiya does not discriminate between her two sons and daughter.
“Just like my sons, I want my daughter to acquire proper education so that she does not have to put through what women in my generation do,” she added.
Literacy rate in rural areas of Pakistan is 49 per cent with female literacy rate at only 37 per cent as opposed to male literacy rate at 63 per cent, according to Annual Status of Education Report 2011.
Hailing from a conservative family Irshad Bibi, an elderly woman from the same village, was deprived of her right to education by the men in her family. “They do include women in the village affairs and have the final say in everything,” she explained.
Despite her aspirations, Irshad could not do things differently for her daughters. “My husband was keen on marrying off our daughters early, even though they wanted to study,” she said.
Though the ratio of female population in rural areas of the country is 50.2 per cent, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011, women still have to strive in order to get an education.
“The girls in our family have to cover a considerable distance to go to school since there are no schools in our vicinity,” said Amna Ayesha, 22, a resident of Thanda Pani Village.
Rising at dawn, Ayesha stars her day feeding cattle and preparing breakfast for her family. “Along with all the chores, we have to earn a livelihood for our families. It is obviously not the best of circumstances and it is definitely not the fate we want for our future generations — we want them to be enlightened and empowered,” she said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Rabia Hadi from Aurat Foundation, stated that “At present the government lacks a programme to empower rural women of the country.”
She said after the devolution of the ministry of women under the 18th Amendment there is no body or department at the federal level working for the rights or empowerment of women.
“There is a dire need to have a national machinery to look after all the affairs related to women empowerment country. The international community has also suggested Pakistan formulate this but so far there has been no progress in this regard,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2014.